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Puppy Or Older Dog: Which Costs More?

cost of a new puppyIf you have read some of my previous posts, you know I am an animal lover, and I especially favor dogs. Maybe cats are smarter and more independent, but there is nothing like a tail wagging at 100 mph and a big tongue hanging out to greet you when you come home from being gone five minutes or five hours. (These are my dogs, not my husband) I took in another foster puppy this week. He is only with us for a few days while he is recovering from surgery. My permanent dogs are 4 and 10 years old. With the contrast in ages, I’ve been wondering if it costs more money to get an older dog or a puppy? From my recent experiences, I’ll share a cost breakdown.

We’ll assume the costs are for mid range quality food, and the veterinary costs are for my area, which may vary depending on where you live.

New Puppy Costs

When I picked up two 4 month old puppies on the side of the road recently, I knew I wasn’t going to keep them forever. If I had decided to keep one, though, here is an idea of what it would cost. You might also buy a new puppy from a breeder or take one from someone who had an unwanted litter. You can get puppies from shelters, but for this example, assume you are getting him elsewhere.

Shots: Puppies need more shots than older dogs, plus an exam with the veterinarian and worming treatment, depending on where the dog was found. $300

Spay/Neuter: We’ll assume we kept the boy puppy, since neutering is less than spaying. $100

Food: Puppies eat all the time, kind of like new babies. We were feeding the little guys at least 4-5 cups of puppy chow a day. $45/month=$540/year

Chew toys: While older dogs might like toys, it is not a vital as giving the new pup something to chew besides your furniture and remote controls. I was realy surprised at how much chew toys cost. $100/year

Kennel: You need some sort of place to contain the little dynamo until he is house broken and doesn’t chew everything. $50

Carpet Cleaning: The little guy is going to pee on your floor. Even if you rent a rug doctor, the cost of supplies plus machine adds up. $80

Replacements: Even though you bought chew toys, puppy is going to shred something; shoes, books, phones. The limiting factor is only what you can put out of range. $200

Training: With a new puppy, you or someone will have to train the little guy. If it’s you, that’s time away from other things you might need to do. If you have a trainer, it could cost $250/year

Emergencies: You never have any idea how much emergency pet expenses are going to be. We budget $100 a month. I answer the messages for the local Humane Society, and we get calls every day for pet owners who are in a bind and can’t afford emergency vet care. Bills are usually between $300-$500 and can be in the thousands if a surgery is needed.  For this example we’ll ball park $300/year.

Annual Puppy Costs: $1920

Older Dogs

We’ll assume you went to the shelter and adopted a dog that is not a puppy and who has been spayed or neutered with all shots completed.

Adoption Fee:$150

Veterinary Bills: In Colorado, older dogs only need a rabies shot every three years and parvo/distemper annually. $100

Food: We’ll assume a 60lb adult dog who eats 2-3 cups of food per day. $35/month=$420/year.

Emergencies can be the same for any dog, so we’ll say it’s the same as above. $300 per year.

Senior Costs: When your dog hits the 9-10 year mark or less for large dogs, you will probably have some regular monthly bills. Our older dog, Ralph, is on Rimadyl right now at $30 per month or $360/year, and he has to go in every 6 months for lab testing $600/year. You also need a dental every 2-3 years at this point around $400 a pop,which averages to around $133/year.

Annual Cost for an older dog: $2063

Guess what? All dogs, regardless of size or age, cost lots of money.These examples don’t even cover things like licenses, collars, bedding, and lots of other stuff you generally have with a dog.  If you are in financial trouble, like Married With Debt points out, you probably don’t need to take on a pet if you can’t afford at least $2000 a year, conservatively. That is one reason so many animals get abandoned or surrendered. People don’t consider the cost. It’s not fair to you or the dog if you can’t afford it’s basic needs.

If you want the joy of a pet, but can’t afford it there are other options, like volunteering at the animal shelter or humane society. You can also foster animals while they are awaiting forever homes. As with any major addition to your family, you should look at the big financial picture before deciding to bring home a puppy, older dog, or any pet.

How much do you spend in pet costs per year? Anyone want a puppy?

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. I did get a cat back when I was in graduate school. Maybe not the best financial move, but a wonderful psychological one. It’s great to have some companionship around the house. Now if the cat would just start earning his keep around here…

    • I’ve said that for years about the dogs. You’d think they could at least kill bugs or something. At least they keep the crumbs picked up.

  2. This is definitely a timely article as we plan on getting a dog from a shelter sometime this year. My uncle warned me about some of those lab testing costs that can really add up. Makes our cat seem super cheap! She’s 20 years old but only really costs money in the form of cat litter and food.

  3. I think a lot of it just depends on luck. We had a younger puppy that we had to put to sleep after spending thousands on vet bills. He had some underlying health problems that caused a lot of pain and misery. Now, we have a 10 year old dachshund who has never been sick.

  4. Kitty PoP is quite affordable, which is another reason he’s pretty awesome. He runs us about $20/month on average, so less than $250 per year – except year 1 when he needed a couple extra rounds of shots. That includes 1 yearly checkup with shots at the vet, and all his food, litter, and toys for the year.

    • I do think cats cost less and are more independent. Not sure why I prefer dogs. I’ve never really even had a cat. Maybe I need to try one.

  5. Good breakdown Kim! I would’ve thought that puppies would’ve cost more, but you bring up a great point about the possible care for a dog as they get older. We used to have 2 mini dachshunds and they chewed absolutely EVERYTHING. Before we lost our son Isaac we sent them to my in-laws as we had no idea of what kind of care he’d require and any time requirements and wanted to have one less thing to deal with. They’re now “retired” in sunny San Diego killing lizards and still chewing up crap at the in-laws. 😉 We do have a cat and other than his insanely high cost food he’s overall pretty cheap to have.

  6. I want a puppy! and lots of chew toys or it would chew the chickens… not sure about the race just yet, maybe a shelter animal or someone who is giving them away. I am surprised at how high the costs are though, I hope vet bills would be lower here but everything else is pretty similar.

    • You could swim in the lake with him or her. I think that would be a perfect place for a puppy. If I was home everyday, I would consider one. Although taking him out every hour in the snow is not very fun!

  7. We have two older cats (17 and 12) who are on special medicine and food, so they are definitely much more expensive than they ever were, even as kittens. Not to mention that with most cats, you can leave them for 1-3 days, but because of the medicine and schedule that they’re on, they pretty much have to be boarded anytime we go away for more than 24 hours. So that’s an additional cost. Still, I love them lots!

  8. I think it also has a lot to do with breed. We have a French Bulldog runt, and I’m terrified for when he gets older. He is just soooo cute, but he already has a couple of medical issues.

    Anyways, ALWAYS adopt! No need to support puppy mills 🙂

    • I used to think that full bred dogs had more problems, but our mutts have been more expensive than my full blooded Jack Russell ever was. They are lots less neurotic than she was too, LOL!

  9. We just adopted a dog (3rd adoption). I don’t think we ever really think about the costs of owning a dog. In some ways it is similar to children. I can afford it, so I don’t even think about it. We do limit ourselves to one dog at a time though.

  10. We have a cat named Prince. Yes, my girls named him! I think a kitten versus an older cat would be similar in cost to your example. My friend had a middle-aged cat, who unfortunately got quite ill. She spent a lot of money on him. Now she’s considering pet insurance on her cat. Pets add so much to a family, but it is surprising how much they can cost.

  11. Nice rundown on costs Kim. I don’t even remember what our dogs cost us in the early years, but they are older and more expensive with their old dog problems. Still love them though.

    • Yeah, you just have to suck it up. For the amount of enjoyment, mine have been worth it. However, the puppy I’m fostering now was dumped out after he was injured in some way. He had a huge hernia hanging out, and I’m sure whoever had him couldn’t or didn’t want to afford the vet.

  12. That’s a pretty good break down of the cost. I was going to guess that the older dog would be cheaper but it turns I was wrong.

    My wife wants to get a Siberian Husky but with living in town I’m not really fond of that idea since the dog won’t have much room to roam and it will always have to be on a leash, on top of that like your article pointed out I just don’t that kind of money to be contributing towards mans best friend.

    • You could always try fostering that breed to see how it works out. Huskies are really great dogs, but are kind of like border collies in that they need work to do. If you can’t run them or have them pulling a sled, it might be tough. They hate warm weather as well. I have a good friend who has had them for years. She lives up in the mountains and they love it there. It really rarely gets above 80 degrees.

  13. I’m more of a cat lover, but regardless any pet isn’t cheap and can be super expensive. You can never predict if your pet may need a bunch of expensive medical services down the road so it’s good to be prepared financially that’s for sure.

  14. I think start up costs to get a pet can cost a bit but it all depends on the breed, size, diet restrictions, health problems etc.. that can cost the money. We’ve been lucky with our dog with just routine costs but I did pay to have the dog chipped. We save $115.83 per month for our dog or $1389.96 as a projected expense. This would cover food, treats, licences, check-up, shots and any potential vet bills.

  15. A lot really depends on the dog. In our two dog household, we’ve somehow always managed to have one “emergency” dog and one dog who needs nothing more than the annual vet checks (at least until end of life care). Our Aussie was constantly hurting himself and we had some pretty bad scares and some surgeries for him, including the final one. Now, we have Junebug, our medical mystery of a Beagle. With her, we’ve spent considerable money just trying to get a good diagnosis, but end up with the decision not to treat for now.
    At the same time, we had Smokey, our Lab/Pit mix who nothing was ever wrong with until he got cancer, and even then, we chose palliative care only. And now we have Larry. He’s a crazy little terrier, but he doesn’t get sick or injured and he doesn’t destroy things.

    I will second the recommendation to foster if you have the time and love and some of the money, but not all. We foster a senior dog. We provide his food and toys and treats, but all medical care and medication are covered by the rescue. If he needed Rx food, the rescue would also cover that, and we could take advantage of other programs they have to get him more “stuff” if he needed it or we couldn’t afford it. (In our case, this is a permanent foster- he’s considered unadoptable and will life out his life with us.) But fostering is a great way to have pets in your life without all of the expenses and it can also help you find the right breed or pet for you.

    • I think that’s wonderful that you are caring for that older dog. We have a lady in our humane society who does that. She has a 19 year old cat with kidney problems who is happy as a clam who is with her. I don’t know if I’d be able to. Puppies are much better at this point.

  16. I am a cat person myself, but they have their own set of dollar signs they come with! 😉

  17. Nice post Kim. My wife and I aren’t really pet people. However, many people don’t seem to realize the costs associated with animals.

  18. As someone who’s entertaining the idea of getting a dog, I thought the older dog would cost more simply due to age, but I was wrong. Great breakdown though. Included it in my roundup!!

  19. We’ve talked about adopting another dog (we’d adopt an adult because there are so many that need good homes and the puppies are adopted faster), but we’re afraid our pup would be heart broken (after 4 years of being our only). Our vet thinks he was 5 when we adopted him (based on his teeth). He was not neutered when we got him, so that was an expense, plus he needed eye surgery, which wasn’t cheap. But he’s the best investment we’ve made in terms of love.

  20. When you break down the costs like this it really went beyond my expectations. It makes me wonder how these people who, ‘can’t afford to live’ have so many animals!

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